Don’t Exclude Us from the Digital Era: Call for National Standards on Digital Accessibility

Don’t exclude us from the digital era: Call for National Standards on Digital Accessibility Gisele Mesnage, is known to many as the blind woman from Sydney who took on Coles Supermarket. The highly publicized landmark case challenged the supermarket giant over accessibility issues on their online shopping website. The Case settled amicably in February 2015 however, Gisele was motivated more than ever to continue in her quest in closing the digital gap that exists for as many as 20% of Australians affected by disability and for older people. The Digital Gap Initiative (http://www.digitalgap.org), founded by Gisele, is a non-profit network that has brought together like-minded individuals from varied backgrounds all around Australia. They share a wealth of personal first-hand experience, daily facing issues which affect them as normal people who contribute to society and wish to access life. This includes the readiness to spend money with retailers who often inadvertently place barriers in the way of these willing customers. Access to digital technology should be guaranteed by law. The Digital Gap Initiative project will focus on advocating for legal, policy and other systemic reforms, with the aim of reducing digital barriers experienced by people with disability and older people. The project will provide information to groups and individuals on how best to communicate with those whose services are currently inaccessible. At a higher level, the Digital Gap Initiative will seek to bring about systemic change by involving individuals, governments, companies and other stakeholders to work towards policies and compliance-based accessibility standards that are equitable and workable. Gisele: “Digitalisation offers unprecedented opportunities for universal access to education, employment, entertainment and much more, because it is far easier to adapt digital codes than the mortar and bricks of the built environment. And for people with disability, older people etc., it is far more convenient to access online services.” Ted McCoskey, an adaptive technology trainer and vision impaired web developer who is President of the digital Gap Initiative Network, echoes this sentiment and adds: “Leaving this to the better angels of conscience simply isn’t working. People would be shocked by how many companies, even huge ones who ought to know better, and government services too, either ignore or are ignorant of how to make this work. Access to digital technology should be guaranteed by law, in the same way as is access to premises” Integrating Human Quality in Accessibility. With the generous support of innovative quality integrator consultancy AccessHQ and a grant from My Choice Matters, the Digital Gap Initiative will be launched in Sydney on Thursday 21 May at a breakfast seminar to be hosted by AccessHQ. Greg Barnett, General Manager – Customer Experience Consulting at AccessHQ, where HQ stands for Human Quality, comments: “Despite an increased focus on accessibility in recent years, the rush of businesses coming online has created a situation where the rate of websites becoming accessible is being outpaced by the rate of new, inaccessible websites. Although the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are a powerful and sincere way to approach web accessibility, we are seeing gaps in the effectiveness of WCAG 2.0 to cover all accessibility requirements”. Global Accessibility Awareness Day The Launch has been timed to coincide with Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) 2015. GAAD encourages people around the world to talk, think and learn about digital accessibility in all forms. Gisele urges Australians to take the Global Accessibility Awareness Day challenge: “For just one hour on 21 May, do not use your mouse – use the keyboard instead. Or switch on a screen reader like VoiceOver or TalkBack on your mobile device” The Digital Gap Initiative Launch Time: 8.30 am – 9.30 am Location: Hilton Sydney Hotel, 488 George Street Sydney Key Speakers: Greg Barnett (AccessHQ); Ted McCosky and Gisele Mesnage (Digital Gap Initiative) Contact Gisele Mesnage (Founder/Coordinator Digital Gap Initiative Network) Phone: 02 9799 5388 (please use this landline # as main contact or to leave a message) Mob: 0428 260 600 Email: Gisele@digitalgap.org Ted McCoskey (President, Digital Gap Initiative Network) Mob: 0404 878 957 Email: ted@digitalgap.org Greg Barnett (General Manager – Customer Insights Practice AccessHQ) Mob: 0430 453 304 Email: greg.barnett@accesshq.com Digital Gap Initiative: http://www.digitalgap.org/ Gisele Mesnage Founder and Coordinator Digital Gap Initiative web: http://www.digitalgap.org/ email: gisele@digitalgap.org Phone: 02-9799 5388 mob: 0428 260 600 (please use landline number as first contact or to leave messages)

Launch of Digital Gap Initiative

Don’t exclude us from the digital era: Call for National Standards on Digital Accessibility

Gisele Mesnage is known to many as the blind woman from Sydney who took on Coles Supermarket. The highly publicised, landmark case challenged the supermarket giant over accessibility issues on their online shopping website.

The Case settled amicably in February 2015 however, Gisele was motivated more than ever to continue in her quest in closing the digital gap that exists for as many as 20% of Australians affected by disability and for older people.

Finish Reading: Launch of Digital Gap Initiative

About the Digital Gap Initiative

About Digital technology is now so integral to our everyday life; it can be compared in scope to the built environment. The plus is that digitalisation offers unprecedented prospects for universal access and real social inclusion, due to being more adaptable than the bricks and mortar of the built environment. Yet the reality is that a social gap, an e-gap, exists between those able to participate in this rapid transformation of our society and those who, through circumstances rather than choice, are being left behind. The Digital Gap Initiative, or e-gap project, will aim to contribute to efforts in Australia and internationally to promote inclusive digital accessibility. The Initiative’s focus will be centred on advocating for legal, policy and other systemic reforms, with the objective to reduce the barriers that people with disability, older persons, socially disadvantage or technically-challenged people face in using digital technology – online services, mobile apps, touch screen devices, ATMs and other automated services, digital TVs and radios, cloud technology and intranet systems in work places and educational establishments, many of which are inaccessible because they have not been designed with accessibility and inclusion in mind. Goals The Initiative will motivate discussion on, and advocate for, the adoption of national, compliance-based digital accessibility standards to be adopted in Australia. These standards would complement the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 (Cth), administered by the Attorney-General’s Department, which codifies requirements for ramps and other accessible features in the built environment. At present, enforcement of digital accessibility is via a complaints process to either the Australian Human Rights Commission or an anti-discrimination body at the State or Territory level. With no uniform minimum standard of digital accessibility guaranteed under Australian law, equality remains a distant promise. The Initiative will aim to connect with stakeholders and experts across disciplines and sectors, towards exploring and developing these model standards and implementation strategies, which would: · go beyond the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, and include criteria for qualitative usability, responsiveness and performance of web design and online services; · cover the broad spectrum of digital systems and services that have become central to our lives; · shift away from piecemeal change through disputes and litigation, instead effecting systemic change; · avoid ambiguity about legal requirements; · include review mechanisms to reduce lag between technological progress and the law; · include training certification and other occupational accreditation standards for those working or teaching in the digital industry to ensure quality of professional services; · apply to government and the non-government sectors; · set proportionate requirements or exemptions as appropriate for individuals, the community sector, small businesses and so on; · Address the question of digital security measures where these impact inclusive access; · Enhance flow-on benefits to the wider community and business; and, · Include other ideas, as generated through the conversation process in working towards this goal. Recognising that no one pathway can bring about change overnight, the Initiative will also pursue a broader strategy which will include: · where feasible, influence public and private sector policies and programs that will generate digital inclusion and minimise the impact of accessibility barriers on educational and employment opportunities, independence and social interactions in Australia; · Connect with international efforts, including lobbying the United Nations to declare an International Year focusing on closing the digital gap globally. The Initiative will operate on the basis of building a network of people committed to these ideals, through the website, social media, conversations and consultations, and other collaborations. Gisele Mesnage Digital Gap Initiative